My Story – thriving from collapse

Before lockdown was announced I was due to give a speech for the University of South Wales on how people can rebuild their lives after a set back. Due to Corona Virus, this event, along with every other event was cancelled. I promised the organiser that I would make a video but since isolation, although able to make headway in other aspects of my life, performing and talking to camera took a severe hit. As a compromise I thought I’d start writing some sort of script. This is what I got.

My life, to me, feels utterly normal and not necessarily exceptional. However, for my generation I’m part of a larger family in a single-parent household and I’m a twin. My childhood home from the age of about nine was also a small care home for the elderly. I went to school and was clever, but not excellent. We were lucky as a family as we went on holidays too. 

I had one or two close friends but generally knew everyone. I started to enjoy music and sports and spent a lot of time playing drums and guitar. 

I went to university and studied law and then recession. This was arguably my first set back. I had a place to continue my studies in London but with the prospect of securing a Training Contract with a big city firm very small for a West Wales seaside boy I decided to return home. Things weren’t going to well and I wanted to be there to support my family.

I started volunteering at my local Citizens Advice Bureau to keep my legal knowledge high and ready to go when the market got good. I did this while also working in a kitchen of a nearby resort doing the breakfast shift. I get to the restaurant for 5:30 and stay there till midday and then go straight to volunteering until 5pm. They were long days but I learnt so much from both experiences.

I was made a full time employee of Citizens Advice Bureau leading a team providing debt and benefits advice. I loved it. This was the responsibility I’d been craving. I was encouraged to apply for a job at a solicitors firm in Cardiff, the big city and I was successful at coming as a supervisor. I was working in a solicitors firm! I’d sort of made it, was it now what I wanted though?

I stayed there for a year before moving to a cancer charity, keeping me in the city. This was a hugely pivotal moment in my life.

I joined the office choir and started a weekend acting course for six weeks. My confidence grew through the roof. I was always typically shy, while always having lofty ambitions and stepping into these roles was fantastic for me. They made me realise that I could do things – even if I felt embarrassed to begin with. Am I the best, not at all. Do I enjoy it? Yes.

From this acting workshop I was encouraged to audition for a musical, which I did, and got a chorus part. I’ve been taking part in shows ever since; gaining more and more responsibility with every show.

At work I was going from role to role there too. From one health board, to all of Wales to the UK wide through different roles. It was great and I was doing well.

Except, in my relationships.

Things always start out well, very well. But as time goes and decisions are made things just change, perhaps I’m too slow to adapt or too stubborn to change core features of mine. But things definitely go sour.  I also don’t go a bundle on confrontation, which is a little ironic for someone who studied law and was an advocate for such a long time; but they were on behalf of the other people. I’m great at that work.

When my relationship broke down after 4 and a half years I was riding high. I had found a new lease of life and was believing in myself; something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I was acting regularly on the amateur scene and had been absorbing information on YouTube from the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk and Yes Theory. I was ready to start living a life far beyond what I was already living.

I didn’t mean to leave anyone behind, it just kind of happened. Our ambitions no longer matched, and I fear that in my lack of confrontation, it was never truly openly talked about. 

That break up was really hard. I knew that I wanted to grow, but I knew that deep down, before a change in job and a show that we were well suited. Things changed and they never really got back on track. It was a shame.

The break up was compounded by the fact that my role with the charity was also coming to end and I was being made redundant. I haven’t mentioned yet that I worked my partner at the time too… and that she started seeing someone else in the office relatively soon afterwards. I was friends with him and even confided in him that based on some of the videos I had seen online I was proud to have him as one of my five closest friends. The sentiment didn’t appear to be shared.

I moved out of the house but couldn’t commit to anywhere as I didn’t know how long my job was going to last for. I was applying for jobs but also waiting for the funder to confirm that there was not a completion to the project I was working on. They restructured and my job came to an end. 

I’d prided myself on always developing in the organisation and vowed I would not go back to legal advice. I’m grateful that they offered me a secondment to our Communications Team and that they could offer me a role within the Advice Team. In the lead up to this though they had rejected other applications I had gone for and not even shortlisted for others. I remember the overwhelming feeling of being unwelcome. Aside from the immediate team I work with who were so good at keeping me looking at the bright side of life – as well the videos I watched online too.

I lived in and out friends houses, Youth Hostels and even in my car for just under three months. I felt like I had nothing. Zero purpose.

I would watch from my desk as my past life disappeared, knowing that my network of friends in and out of work was about to significantly shift and change. I was lonely. Why had my desire for a more than average life caused me to lose everything? It was at this time that Disney’s Moana was released and I downloaded it on my phone to watch as it was recommended to me. “I’m a girl who loves my island, I’m a girl who loves the sea; it calls me.” This was how I felt lying in an empty house wondering what to do next. Why can’t I have the family and the ambition? I would turn 30 while being moved on from that house. I bought myself a ticket to see New Found Glory that night and managed to watch them after a friend arranged a birthday meal for me. There were glimmers of good things going on around me. But all I could focus on was the anxiety pulsing on the left side of my neck, the amount of frustration I felt that I was helpful and in order to rise above what I was feeling would be to go against what everyone was telling me to do – to be territorial. It’s really difficult being the bigger man sometimes. It’s exhausting.

The final straw came while playing a gig with my band. While doing the soundcheck I had a call from a private number; the police. My car had broken into no more than 20 metres away from me and my laptop, camera, and memory bank had been stolen. Two years of videos and pictures gone in a flash. I was broken.

I rang my mum, and then my boss and told them I was going home. I was going to play the gig and then I was going to go home. I played really well for some reason and as promised I left and drove the two hour journey with a missing window. I wouldn’t return to Cardiff for three months.

It’s odd being ill and not having anything to show for it. It also filled me with a lot of guilt. I’m the guy who always helped others and now I couldn’t help anyone or myself. Circumstantial Depression it was called. Later I would do the Holmes and Ray Stress Test and nearly get full marks because everything I experienced in the 12 months prior. Something was going to break, and it did.

I spent a lot of time with my family and started playing football again. I’ve used sport to manage my stress since completing my GCSEs and despite being worried about work would see playing sport with my brother and nephew was really important. I even got quite good and held the right back position for the remainder of the season. When I eventually went back to Cardiff I would travel back to play midweek and weekend games, going into work early and leaving early to do so. I owed those boys. It was a different team to the one I left nearly ten years before but they were now my team and that was important to me.

I also started my HelloTomDyer Facebook page soon after getting back to work. I still didn’t really have a direction but I knew it was something I had to do. I should point out, heading back to Cardiff to work was difficulty, particularly as it was for a role back at my last job where no one had moved on from. But I had a purpose again. I had a step in responsibility and it was looking after mental health of people affected by cancer. Helping people is always what I have done and regardless of where that may be this was opportunity to learn something in a safe environment, on the whole to do it.

I led that service for two years and I’m proud of everything I achieved in that role. And out of it, jumping into theatrical productions like no man’s business taking part in 9 productions in 2019. I loved every second of it.

Which leads me to where I am now. My job is turbulent again, but unlike last time there are now projects appearing soon that I can jump into. There’s also not many jobs with my skillset coming up soon. I will take a job wherever when push comes to shove but I want to use my experiences to help others and to help people realise that just because things aren’t going smoothly doesn’t mean that you can’t pick yourself up whenever you need it.

Did I cry over that year? You bet I did. But did I also laugh a lot more, yes I did. Did I overcome my own ego and place myself front and centre with a large part of the hurt I experienced, yes again! In ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) we talk about added suffering. The pain was caused by a break up and subsequent actions… Me not knowing going for a job because of other people would have been me adding to that pain. I fronted up and I did my job, and did my job well. Don’t get me wrong, I nearly didn’t apply for it. A text message of support helped me in putting together application. I wasn’t going to do it. Single line text messages from me helped when the anxiety was bad, this one message in helped me make me who I am today with far more skill and knowledge than I had before.

With these skills, knowledge and experience I want to help you in whatever situation you find yourself.

What have I learned from this:

  1. I don’t need much to survive in this life
  2. Family and ambition can live hand in hand as long as it is communicated properly
  3. Friends and acquaintances will step up even when they’re not asked
  4. I laugh more than I cry
  5. I can get out of my own way and take action even if it is uncomfortable.
  6. You can stay grateful even when the circumstances are rubbish
  7. Some of my best ideas came out of being in a really low place
  8. Music helps
  9. Education and up-skilling put me in the best frame of mind to tackle the situation and the situation I find myself in now
  10. Sport and movement are important.
  11. I am fearless and will do things even if they’re embarrassing

I’m sure there are others and I may even come back and add to this when I get the time.

If you head over to my HelloTomDyer Facebook Page you will see lots of videos I’ve conducted and how ACT has helped me.

If you want me to show you how ACT can help you I’m offering 8 weekly sessions with me for £320.

We will go over:

  • how your brain and mind works.
  • How to take action and get out of your own way
  • Mindfulness techniques and practices
  • Discovering your values
  • Making a plan for your desired future

If you would like more information please get in touch and I’ll answer any questions you may have.

I’m really excited for your future and increasing your ability to figure anything out. I came back from the brink, I want to stop you ever getting there, but if I do, I’ll have given you the necessary tools to stay afloat, get out of your own way and thrive again.

I’m looking forward to working with you.

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